Thursday, January 16, 2014

First story. Might as well just dive in, right?

I walked into my first fourth grade classroom five years ago. First fourth grade classroom. I had been teaching for a year already, but that was as a Literacy Specialist…a totally awesome job, but just not the same as a classroom teacher. On my very first day as a Literacy Specialist, there were no kiddos staring at me as I fumbled for introductions. No kiddos asking me how old I was (Sidenote: I look about 16. 17 on a good day. Honest.) No kiddos period. Just a pile of Observation Study forms and Fountas and Pinnell benchmark tests to start on. So I did.

Suddenly, a year later, I found myself in my very own classroom, ready to lead a bunch of fabulous fourth graders through a year of learning. All. By. Myself.

KIND OF A WEIRD SIDENOTE(Here I go again): I had packed all of my classroom library in boxes I got from the liquor store because they were sturdy and I got a lot of weird looks from the custodians who helped me lug them up the three flights of stairs to my Rapunzel classroom in the sky tower.

So, anyway, on that first day, I had the most organized, beautiful, colorful, wonderful classroom ever. Seriously, pretty. I spent weeks prior to that first day doing everything I could to create a warm and inviting space. A community of learners would inhabit this space for 9 months, and I would not disappoint those kiddos. I was determined to be prepared. Every book was leveled and labeled, neatly sorted into genre book bins. Every notebook, folder, and book box had a student name and number on it. (Sidenote: numbering students is a GODSEND.) And on that first morning, as I was looking over my minute-by-minute planned out first day lesson plan, my next door neighbor popped in.
She totally became a real life savior for me that first year. AKA an unofficial mentor. (Sidenote: This teacher friend once showed me a picture of herself sitting in her backyard with a chipmunk perched merrily on her toes. HER TOES. She raised chickens. Picked her own grapes and then made grape pie. This. Is. A. Nature. Lady.)

Anyway, this teacher friend walks in, all confident because she has been doing this whole teaching thing for years upon years. She hands me a cutesy card, all like, “good luck!” And, “you’ll have a great first day!” And, “I know you can do this!” So, I thanked her. And then I asked, “So…when they get here…I just…what do I do?” She laughed and offered all the normal reassurance, which made me think I would just be fine and it would all come naturally to me. After all, it’s not like it’s my very first year teaching or anything, right? Right.

Okay, flash forward a few minutes. Kiddos are in the room. Kiddos are sitting in their assigned seats. Kiddos are STARING. STARING AT ME. I make my way to the front of the pretty, pretty, classroom. I hoist myself up onto a rolling cart. I’m sitting there…not really sure what to say. Okay, now get a load of this. THIS is the very first thing that comes out of my mouth.

“Hello. I’m new to fourth grade. You’re new to fourth grade. I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, but you don’t either. So…I guess we’ll learn fourth grade together!”

And that is how my career as a fabulous fourth grade teacher began.

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